Courtesy Michael Didonna

Art & Architecture

Uncovering 'The Art of the Sea': A Reminder of What We Have to Lose

For those who have its horizon in the background daily, the beauty of the ocean can be easily forgotten. Its vast expanse and depth can make it feel indestructible. But a new art exhibit at Manhattan's Quin Hotel, entitled The Art of the Sea, is a reminder of its mysterious magnificence—a magnificence that is delicate, that should be honored. The show, which is made up of photography, video, collage and silk print works, is a combined effort by seven local and international artists, and sitting at the center of the exhibition feels as though you’re at the center of the surreal, albeit real, underwater world.

Among the sprawl of striking pieces, one 15-foot tall video installation in the lobby by Dan Balilty manages to stand out. “He took an aquarium filled with water and filmed it moving around and abstracted it into different pieces." explains co-curator DK Johnston. "It’s filmed at 1,200 frames per second, but it’s slowed down and broadcast at 24 frames per second. It’s a 20-minute loop. That sets the tone in the room, and the other works dovetail nicely into that narrative—that ethereal quality of the water sloshing about.” 

Co-curator Nicole Ianniello is getting a master’s degree in art business at Sotheby’s—and she’s also a surfer. She says, “The water is so healing for me. It’s such a meditative space.” Her love of the ocean inspired the show’s theme. “I wanted to curate a show that, one, captures the movement of water. Each photographer’s work speaks to me in the way they capture and display water in their work. Two, I wanted to give back to something that is so healing for me, which is the ocean and surfing.” 
The Quin partnered with Surfrider Foundation on The Art of the Sea, and a portion of proceeds from sales will be donated to the environment-focused nonprofit. Johnston says, “In the New York City area, especially out in the Rockaways, they are doing some great stuff, and the organization is really well mobilized.” In addition to raising funds, Johnston and Ianniello hope the exhibit will help raise awareness of global warming’s effects on the oceans and the need for coastal communities to adapt to climate change.

Aside from the oceanic theme, the artwork is tied together by the artists’ evident passion for nature. Photographer Delphine Diallo, for instance, is a French-Senegalese photographer and visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She travels the world as part of her work empowering women and children for the United Nations and various nonprofits, and often takes photos of the natural environments she encounters along the way. She took the featured “The Tiger & The Water”—a black and white image that captures the ferocious feline lounging vulnerable and unbothered—while traveling in Thailand, and considers the photo a fortunate accident. “They had a huge place, showing the tiger to tourists. The tiger was actually in a huge swimming pool. We were able to get really close to them. I took my courage and I shot a very close picture from that perspective in a hurry.” The resulting image feels spiritual to her, and she finds purpose in awakening people’s consciousness through photography. With a photograph, she says, “You can touch people right away. It’s a very fulfilling experience to give love to other people. You don’t need to be there. They see the work, and they can feel the same feeling you had when you took the picture.”

Photographer Adam Guy says, “I grew up literally surfing [on the North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii] since I could walk. I’ve always been connected to the water and the ocean—diving, fishing when I was a kid, surfing and all that stuff.” He has always loved being underwater, so when he started taking pictures about 15 years ago, he brought his camera into the water with him. He says, “I surf with a camera, holding a camera behind people, and do all kinds of crazy stuff. Then, the drones came out, and I got into drones. I love the downward perspective on the water. It just has a meditative feel.”
Photographer Michael Dweck captures his connection to the water from the other side of the United States. His Mermaids series includes images of women who are the daughters of stone-crab fishermen in Florida, introduced to the water when they’re only a few months old. Dweck says, “This is the world that they’re raised in, this is the world where they’re the most comfortable. It’s a beautiful place, and that’s what I wanted to capture—their world. It was about escapism, very private, very intimate. All my work is about worlds on the edge of extinction.” With each of his projects, he identifies a way to have a positive impact on the people and places he photographs. (His book of Montauk surfers, for example, benefited Surfrider and Oceana.) This element of giving back helps the public make stronger connections with these communities—and with his work. “I immerse them into this world through beauty. I show them how great it is, and then I ask them to preserve it.”

Sure, artists part of The Art of the Sea can preserve how the sea looked at one moment in time from one place on earth, but protecting these vast ecosystems is a much bigger challenge. In the images that surround onlookers at The Quin, one can almost feel the breeze and the high tide rushing in before crashing. The waves keep coming, but then, so do the environmental threats. A report on Surfrider’s website explains how climate change affects oceans, coastal areas and marine life. Rising sea levels and increasingly powerful coastal storms displace wetlands, flooding, and cause further erosion. Pollution from fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean, endangering marine ecosystems. Humans have caused these issues, and Surfrider believes we have the power to solve them, too—but we have to start by taking them seriously. The Art of the Sea is visually impressive, and it’s also a call to action. May the impact of this exhibit be as deep and dynamic as the ocean itself.

The Art of the Sea exhibit runs through mid-November at The Quin Hotel, located at 101 West 57th St. at Sixth Ave, New York, New York.

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